Which is the best to learn on – Electric or acoustic guitar?
This is a difficult question to answer because, as much as anything, it is a matter of personal choice. However, there are pro’s and con’s to learning on either the electric or acoustic guitar and we will take you through them.
First up let’s take a look at the acoustic guitar.
As the name suggests, and it might be stating the obvious, but the acoustic guitar is designed to be… well… played acoustically. That is there is no need for any external amplification for you and others to be able to hear you play. The body of the acoustic guitar is designed to be the amplifier. When you strum the strings the movement of the strings causes the sound board, the front wooden panel of the guitar body, to vibrate. The vibration of the soundboard resonates in the body of the guitar creating the sound and tone of the acoustic guitar.
Acoustic guitars are perhaps the natural option for the beginner as they require very little in the way of additional equipment and so can be quite cost effective if you are on a tight budget. The fact that they do not require additional equipment means that they are also eminently suited to the pick-up and play guitarist. For example if you are the out-doorsy type and the idea of strumming your guitar around the camp fire appeals then the acoustic guitar is going to be your best friend.
However, there are some things to bear in mind when choosing an acoustic guitar.
Acoustic guitars generally have wider, thicker necks, often use higher (thicker) gauge strings and have a higher action (the height of the string above the fretboard). This means that acoustic guitars can be more challenging physically to play when you are just starting out. One of the biggest challenges for the novice guitarist is the punishment you will be subjecting your fingers to when you start playing. Holding guitar strings down onto the fretboard requires finger strength which needs to be built-up. The wide neck, high action and thicker strings can make this more of a pain in the early days of your playing career.
Pro’s of the acoustic guitar:
- They require very little additional equipment
- They are very portable
- They are very adaptable as they can be used to play most music styles
Con’s of the acoustic guitar:
- Thick necks, thicker strings and higher actions can be punishing on the fingers
- An acoustic guitar might not cut it for some music styles. If you are an out and out metal-head an acoustic guitar is perhaps not the best choice.
If the acoustic guitar is your choice of guitar then we can recommend the following great quality budget acoustic guitars to get you started.
Having considered the acoustic guitar we now need to move onto the electric guitar.
In the argument of electric or acoustic guitar what has the electric option got to offer?
Let’s face it for most of us it is the sight of our guitar heroes ripping it up on an electric guitar which made us take up the instrument in the first place. For me it was David Gilmour and Brian May that got me hooked. However, nobody sums up the attractions of the electric guitar as succinctly as the character Willie Brown in the Crossroads movie…
“Look at this old guitar here you been squeakin’ on. I bet you saw this thing in a music store and bought it just because you thought it was beat up! Well you got it all wrong. Muddy Waters invented electricity!”
The beat up old guitar he was referring to was of course an acoustic guitar so with that ringing endorsement why would you want to play anything other than an electric guitar?
Electric guitars can be played acoustically but only if you want to hear what you are playing. And let’s face it why would you want to play an electric guitar acoustically? The guitar because it requires an amp can be designed differently to an acoustic guitar so it has a number of advantages for a novice guitarist over the acoustic guitar.
Because the sound is amplified via an electric amplifier there is no requirement for the body to be hollow to amplify the vibration of the strings. Electric guitars are therefore more compact instruments which can make them more comfortable to play. The neck of an electric guitar is generally less chunky and can have a shorter scale length than an acoustic guitar. The action of an electric tends to be lower and this can also be adjusted relatively easily. Finally electric guitars can be strung with lower gauge strings if you chose to do so. All this makes the electric guitar a generally easier proposition for a novice guitarist who is just getting started. For example when I started out I initially had a steel string acoustic guitar and was quite simply amazed at how much easier it was to play an electric guitar by comparison.
Amongst other things a big advantage of an electric guitar over an acoustic is the range of sounds and tones that can be achieved. With different pick-up combinations, distortion and other sound effects the potential for the sounds that you can produce from an electric guitar are limited only by your own imagination.
With these advantages why would you chose an acoustic guitar over an electric guitar? Well the main drawback is one of cost. Generally you need a bit more equipment with an electric guitar. As well as the guitar you will need at least an amplifier and a cable to connect the guitar to the amplifier. However, these days you can get some very good amps and electric guitars at very low prices but not as cheaply as an acoustic unfortunately.
To sum up the pro’s and con’s of an electric guitar are:
Pro’s of an electric guitar
- Easier to play due to thinner necks, lower action and lighter string gauges.
- Great potential for sound and tone creation.
- You can play a wider range of musical genres
Con’s of an electric guitar
- Cost – Electric guitars tend to be more expensive and require more equipment.
- It is not an acoustic guitar. Might be obvious but if you want to play acoustic music the electric guitar is not going to be an appropriate choice.
If the electric guitar is for you then we have reviewed some really great beginner guitars which we think are suitable for the novice.
Now I am not sure we have answered the question of which is best to learn on the electric or acoustic guitar. There are pro’s and con’s for both and many people say that if you start out on an acoustic you will challenge your fingers more and therefore progress more quickly than you would if you start playing an electric guitar. I am not sure that this is a valid argument as why would you want to do something for fun and then chose an instrument that is going to make your life difficult? For me the question can only be answered by you and largely revolves around the music that you want to be able to play. If you are in to rock and metal then it is perhaps more appropriate to chose an electric guitar. If you are into that folk vide then an acoustic is going to be a better choice than an electric.
But I want to throw it open to you the reader. What would you advise. What did you start on and electric or acoustic guitar? What would you have preferred to start on. Please vote in our poll below and also give us your feedback we are very interested to know your views.
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